10.000 TEU Architecture: Projects for the Port of Rotterdam

A design studio at the Rotterdam Academy of Architecture (RAvB), with Amir Djalali. Participants: Pascalle Asgarali, Paul van den Bergh, Mikolai Brus, Martins Duselis, Maarten Haas, Tea Hadzizulfic, Anneke Heins, Saskia Kok, Michelle Kox, David Verdonk

The history of city of Rotterdam has been strongly related to its harbor since its beginnings. Yet, the city and the harbor are radically different, representing two distinct ways of inhabiting and organising the built environment. While the city is characterised by the presence of public space and collective life, the space of the harbor is dominated by economy and business. The city is a stratification of structures and patterns, which accumulate in time. Its development is slowed down by the presence of its past. In some ways, a city always shows a cross section of all these traces, which mark its specificity as a unique, unrepeatable object. Conversely, the harbor is a constantly changing environment, which constantly reworking its own past. Harbor facilities are built and demolished without leaving traces. New technologies and new forms of labor organisation radically transform its spaces in the time span of few decades.

The spaces of the harbor are not defined by history: devoid of memory, or of symbolic meanings, they are just the translation in space of measurable quantities and standardised operations. Harbor buildings are generic boxes, which can allow transformation and adaptation to the rapid changing moods of the market. For this reason, architects are usually not involved in the design of the spaces of the harbor, which are left to engineers, urban planners and economic analysts. Architects’ tools are born to suit the needs of the city, but they are at odds with the inner logic of the harbor. The injection of public spaces, cafés and restaurants in the harbor, or the recuperation of dismantled harbor buildings for public use is for sure a tempting strategy for local administrations, in order to create a vibrant and romantic waterfront for the city and boost land values by attracting new “creative” and wealthy inhabitants. Yet, instead of imposing the logic of the city upon the harbour the studio attempts to design an architecture that stems from within the logic of the harbor itself: logistics.